September 9, 2009
BLT From Scratch
by Gareth Mark
The challenge: make a BLT from scratch by growing the tomato, growing the lettuce, curing the bacon, baking the bread, and making the mayonnaise. The result: a delicious sandwich that took all summer to make but was worth the wait!
The lettuce is a mix of several varieties. The tomatoes include beefsteak and green zebra. Due to a combination of weak soil, too much shade, and too little summer sun in the Pacific Northwest, the tomato crop in my garden was unfortunately small. Tasty, though. The bacon was straight-forward--I smoked it lightly with applewood. The mayonnaise includes some whole grain mustard. And then there's the bread.
The bread has been the most interesting part of the challenge for me. I've tweaked bread all summer long, looking for an elusive flavor, all the while working from Ruhlman's ratio of 20 ounces of flour, 12 ounces of water, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. I've finally gotten really close to what I want.
First, I put 1-2 tablespoons of wheat berries into a cup of water to soak overnight. Meanwhile, I mixed an ounce (or so) each of millet, oat, semolina, whole wheat, and light rye flours with enough unbleached bread flour to come to 16 total ounces. I proofed a generous ½ teaspoon of active dry yeast in a cup of warm water, then added that and another ½ cup of water to the flour mixture along with a tablespoon of honey, mixed well, and let it grow. Once the pre-dough showed good signs of life, I put it into the refrigerator for overnight fermentation.
The next day, I took the pre-dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while I cooked the wheat berries for about an hour, until they began to crack open. Then I drained the berries and added them to the pre-dough along with ½ cup toasted pecans, 4 ounces of unbleached bread flour, 2 teaspoons of fleur de sel, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and six cloves of garlic confit. I used the trusty stand mixer to knead the dough for about ten minutes, then covered it and let it rise until doubled. Finally, I punched it down, formed it, let it proof, then baked it.
This was a fun and rewarding challenge. The sandwich was juicy and very tasty. I've learned a lot, and have even convinced a friend to cure her own bacon rather than buy it!
Now, is anyone up for Mac 'n Cheese from scratch?